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Bipartisan senators press FBI, inspector general for changes following Nassar case

The Hill logo The Hill 11/22/2021 Mychael Schnell
Larry Nassar looking at the camera: Bipartisan senators press FBI, inspector general for changes following Nassar case © The Hill Bipartisan senators press FBI, inspector general for changes following Nassar case

A bipartisan group of senators is calling on the FBI and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to implement changes and provide information after the OIG found that the FBI's Indianapolis office failed to respond to allegations of abuse against USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar with the "seriousness and urgency" needed.

The coalition, led by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) penned a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Friday requesting that the bureau provide information regarding changes it has made in the aftermath of the OIG's report, which found that FBI officials did not quickly address allegations against Nassar, despite the possibility of the alleged abuse continuing amid the delays.

"On September 15, 2021, you testified that you would provide the Committee with full, written explanations of changes in the FBI's policies following the recommendations from the Inspector General's Office," the senators wrote.

"It is imperative that Congress is fully aware of the steps the FBI is taking to ensure that we may provide the Bureau with adequate resources, and ensure that these mistakes are never repeated," they added.

The OIG released its report on the Nassar case in July. It found the FBI and local authorities were delayed for more than a year in launching their investigation into Nassar due to a number of failures outlined in the report.

When the FBI field office did ultimately respond, the OIG said officials made "numerous and fundamental errors" and "violated multiple FBI policies."

The senators on Friday specifically requested that Wray provide information regarding the organizational structure for responding to sexual abuse allegations, the communication between field offices or other government entities, training FBI employees undergo for working on crimes against children and policies and procedures for conducting telephone interviews with alleged child abuse victims.

Additionally, they requested details relating to changes that have been made to policies regarding the bureau's response to child abuse allegations.

"The Inspector General's report documented disturbing and disappointing inaction that led to the continued abuse of dozens of young athletes. The FBI has a responsibility to ensure that every alleged child abuse victim with whom the Bureau interacts is protected against further harms and to hold those committing these heinous acts accountable," the senators wrote.

The group also penned a letter to Inspector General Michael Horowitz, requesting that he "take additional steps to ensure that the FBI's approach to child sex abuse cases is thorough, competent, and compassionate, and that its policy and training improvements actually have their intended effect."

They specifically asked the OIG to conduct additional audits of the FBI's work when it comes to sex crimes against children, and take steps to audit and evaluate the FBI's adherence to its new training and policy changes, in addition to the effectiveness of the new regulations in addressing the failures outlined in the Nassar report.

The senators also asked for a comprehensive audit of the bureau's Crimes Against Children Program, particularly focusing on sex crimes and trafficking.

"The review should evaluate the FBI's effectiveness in investigating and curtailing abuse and the FBI's compliance with internal policies designed to ensure that it is responding swiftly and appropriately to allegations of sex abuse," the senators wrote.

"It is our hope that additional audits will identify further areas of improvement for the FBI related to sex crimes against children and result in better outcomes for survivors," they added.

Congress ramped up its oversight of the FBI in the wake of the Nassar case. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bureau's "dereliction of duty" in September, which featured at-times emotional testimony from four star U.S. gymnasts.

Nassar was sentenced to over 100 years in prison in 2018 after he was convicted of multiple charges related to sexual abuse of minors. The former doctor has been accused by hundreds of women of sexual mistreatment under the guise of medical necessity.

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